Last week I wrote a column expressing my thoughts on the August Wilson Center. Before writing that column I thought long and hard about it. Should I let everyone know how I really feel? I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I wanted to express my thoughts on something that I felt was important.
I’ll share the comments made and the city they came from, I don’t want to release the names of the authors without their consent.
From Penn Hills:
I agree with your insight regarding August Wilson Center. Yes it is a nice looking building but just a building with no identity. The most profound statement that you made was your summary “It needs a director with vision”—Clear Vision! My personal observation would focus on [it’s] lack of effective management. It was staffed by too many “paid directors” and too little “functional volunteers.” I truly think the purpose of the center was scrapped/compromised during the negotiation for capital process.
From Los Angeles:
Thank you for your report. I am sorry to read of your disappointment with the August Wilson Center. As an interested body in Los Angeles where we are also looking at sustainable enterprises that support our vision for urban communities, and a friend of August Wilson, I have been interested in the progress of the August Wilson Center since visiting there several years ago at the request of the Governor of Pennsylvania’s office. At that time I was familiar with Neal Barkley and several key staff persons who are no longer with the project and visited the facility.
The building was not completed at that time, but had the looks of being potentially an important icon in the middle of the city for the African-American community. Hopefully your wishes are heard and someone with vision has the capability to retool the facility in a manner that supports the vision of August while building a sustainable program, much like the Manchester Guild in your city.
From New York:
YOU hit the nail on the head, as they say. Actors and other artist and arts administrators in NYC are talking about the AWC and how sad it is that is going down. Like you I hope they can save this supposed center of African American cultural. But part of the problem has always been there were people involved who truly did not have the success of a center on African American cultural be truly institutionally successful. Creating it AND making it an institution ensures its long term success, like the Heinz Center or the Andy Warhol Museum. Moreover, named after one of America’s most famous Black playwrights and myself being a theatre artist, I too hope they can create a strong theatre component along with a place/space to display and perform other Black artist expressions. As Langston Hughes famously said in a poem “….But someday somebody’ll Stand up and talk about me—and write about me—and sing about me, and put on plays about me! I reckon it’ll be me myself!”
From Atlanta: You hit the nail on the head!
(Email the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org)